How To Make A Simple Oval Layout More Interesting

Perhaps the oval, no matter how you extend or alter it, appears too fixed and static for you.

You can make a distorted oval, and place stations or other buildings at the curved portions so the curves will be meaningful.

No real railroad curves without a reason, and you can always make your layout more realistic by giving your track a good reason to curve.

The distorted oval, without additions, takes 16 curved sections of track and two straight, and it fits neatly on a 4′ x 6′ board.

Even this layout needs a siding or two for interest. Here you have two, both requiring right-hand switches. Choose one or both.

With the distorted oval, you can even make a passing siding and an inside siding or two (only one is shown).

You can actually make, from this plan, the bent oval with a passing siding, an outside siding, and two inside sidings, each with a short second siding attached.

All layout suggestions offered so far in this e-course have not even used the full capacity of a 4′ x 6′ board. The full width, or close to it, can be taken advantage of by adding two half-length sections of straight track, one at each end of the oval. (Track comes in 1/2 straight sections and 1/2 curved sections.)

With this broadened oval you can handle every layout given up to this point and a good many more. With it you can place a complete circle or small oval within the large oval — and still have room for some sidings.

One advantage of this type of layout is that you can operate two trains at once, even if you have only one transformer. The better switches for S-gauge trains are equipped with small button switches that enable you to adjust them for two-train operation or for regular operation.

In regular operation, current flows to all rails so that trains move no matter what track they are on. With two-train operation, current flows only into the loop for which the switches are set and not into the loop that is cut off by the switches.

Thus, if you have switches set for the outside loop, any train on that loop will move but a train on the inside loop will stop.

When switches are changed, the train on the outside loop will automatically stop and the train on the inside loop will move. This diagram shows an oval with a circle inside, and two possible dead-end sidings:

This layout, without sidings, takes 22 curved sections, 4 straight sections, 2 half- straight sections, and a pair of switches. The sidings shown would add another pair of switches, 1 curved, and 3 straight sections of track.

This layout can be varied by making the inner circle into an oval. This enables you to construct a crossover from the outside to the inside oval.

Incidentally, some manufacturers confuse the terms crossover and crossing. A cross-over is a combination of switches which enables a train to pass from one track to another track running parallel with it.

A crossing, on the other hand, is an accessory by which one track actually crosses another—usually at right angles—without trains being able to pass from one to the other.

This next layout shows an oval within an oval, with a crossover between the two ovals at the bottom. It takes 22 curved sections, 3 straight, 2 half-straight, and four switches.

Another variation of the broadened oval gives you an inside curve which can be made, through proper switching, to lead into a dead-end siding. Or the train can move onto the siding directly from the outside oval.

The distorted and broadened ovals may be combined with the circle to give great variety in a 4′ by 6′ layout, as shown here:

You don’t need to use every feature of it — just choose what you wish and what you have track for.

Another interesting layout that looks as if it could not fit on a 4′ x 6′ board (but can, even though there is very little room left over) involves a complete circle which need not involve the large oval enclosing it.

A long curved connecting line, however, lets you send a train from the inner circle to the outer oval. You can keep two trains rolling around both of these at once without interference.

When you operate your trains on this layout, you will wish that you could get from the outer oval back to the inner circle without backing up — or rather, in addition to backing up, for reversing actions are always interesting in themselves.

The layout that will accomplish this is easy to construct, but it will not fit on a 4′ x 6′ board. A 4′ x 8′ panel, however, will hold it nicely, as shown below:

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick Hayes January 10, 2009 at 1:10 pm

I have a very small (5.5″) Can.Pacific engine. Can I make it work properely in a confined space of 25″ w by 80″ long ??

Ken May 1, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Man that is some great ideas. Thanks, Ken

Bryan May 18, 2009 at 7:12 am

I started out with an oval, but quickly got bored with the train going round and round. I think I was 8 or 9 at the time. I changed it to a figure “8″ with a bridge, and that lasted me well into high school, and no boredom. Added switches and sidings later.

john w groth August 1, 2009 at 11:00 am

many thanks. being 90 years young, things take a little longer as you will fine out…. again many thanks for info.

grace thompson September 13, 2009 at 5:07 am

My space is 4′x6′6″. I’d like to be able to run one train
either clockwise or counterclockwise and be able to shift
from one way to the other. Scale is HO. I can use either or both– 15′R or 18″R. Any suggestions?

chris reuland November 6, 2009 at 9:01 pm

gentelman i have a question maybe you could answer it for me
… i have a pre-war flying yankee 616 train that i just repaired the e- unit on and bought new wheeles for as I running the unit with the original transformer it started smoking (the transformer) I quickly unpluged it what type of transformer will work with this old set and can i buy more track chris r

Brandon December 24, 2009 at 9:46 pm

These are great tips and will help me and other people, if you dont have space for a bigger layout.. Im puting up a train table soon its going to be about 3×7 and im putting an oval layout and just dicided to put in a train yard.. Thancks to the ideas and tips from this website!

Mark White March 22, 2010 at 3:36 am

Hello, I have been looking at your website and it is very interesting. I am new to model railroading, and I am currently in the process of deciding which type of layout to start with. I have put some track down but keep changing my mind on the shape, also I am not sure which era to focus on. I am in England and although there are many stations on which to base mine, I do prefer the USA layouts and different stations, as they seem to be more interesting, to me anyhow. I really want to get moving along so I can start scratch building some different buildings, although I have tried a couple just for practice, and they have turned out a lot better than I thought, well I will go now, and start trying to decide on which layout to use, thank you,



Arin Bevie April 29, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Very good ideas

jim hanna July 14, 2010 at 9:11 am

can you let me know the number of track i need to set up your lay out 5 0 and 51

tim October 1, 2010 at 5:04 pm

hi bill. great web site. bill do u have any info, on 2 train opperation.
i want to get my lay out . i do not any idea. eather h.o. or m.t.h. o k. bill both .
i like the 2 scales.i would like to do both .

thanks bill. tim.

charlie January 24, 2011 at 11:16 am

i am new to this site. I assume that unless otherwise noted that this pertains to HO scale. Right?

Pls email the answer to the above email address.

Thank you.

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